The Ordering of Time: From the Ancient Computus to the Modern Computer

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This book is a concise history of the use and interpretation of time, written by one of the foremost medievalists in Europe today.

Arno Borst examines the various ways that time has been calculated by numbers and measured by instruments over several centuries, from the computus—an ancient method of determining times and dates—to the present-day computer. In a wide-ranging discussion, he analyzes the classical Greek concepts of divine, natural, and human time; the universal time of ancient Rome; the Easter cycle of the Middle Ages; the development of the mechanical clock in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries; early modern chronology; and twentieth-century data processing.

Borst argues that although many centuries and countless different instruments—sundials, horologia, abaci, astrolabes, calendars, and calculating machines—separate the medieval computus from the modern computer, each generation has had to answer the same question: how can we make the best use of our available time to improve our lives? The computer, he suggests, is merely a new instrument employed for an ancient purpose.

Lively and accessible, The Ordering of Time will be welcomed by students and researchers in social and cultural history, the history of science and mathematics, as well as anyone interested in the history of time and numbers.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226066585
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/1994
  • Series: Women in Culture and Society Ser.
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 178
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Arno Borst is Emeritus Professor of Medieval History at the University of Konstanz in Germany. Borst's previous books include Medieval Worlds (Polity, 1992).

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Table of Contents

Translator's Acknowledgements
List of Illustrations
1. The Medieval Calendar and European History
2. Divine, Human and Natural Time in Greek Antiquity
3. Universal Time and Salvation History in Roman Antiquity
4. Easter Cycle and Canonical Hours in the Early Middle Ages
5. World Eras and Days of Human Life in the Seventh and Eighth Centuries
6. The Church Bell and Work Time in the Ninth Century
7. Perception of the Moment of Respite in the High Middle Ages
8. Giving and Using Time in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries
9. Divided and Appointed Times in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries
10. The Confusion and Management of Calendars in the Late Middle Ages
11. Mechanical Clocks and Rhythmic Differences in the Fourteenth Century
12. The Universal Machine and Chronology in the Early Modern Period
13. Chronometry and Industrialization in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
14. Computers and Atomic Time in the Twentieth Century
15. Calculable and Allotted Time

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